CBS Ambushes the Second Amendment

A two-day CBS series, Battle Line Philadelphia, promoted gun control and new taxpayer-funded anti-poverty programs to reduce urban violence.    

CBS aired Battle Line Philadelphia repeatedly on July 23 and July 24, on the Evening News, the Morning News, and the Early Show

“Just yesterday, in the City of Brotherly Love,” announced on alarmed Katie Couric on the July 23 Evening News, “five people were shot to death, bringing the murder total for this year to 232.”  Couric did not report how many of 2007 murders were gun-related.  According to the Christian Science Monitor, 317 of Philadelphia's 406 murders in 2006 involved guns.   

CBS solicited opinions from multiple liberals but quoted only one token conservative.  NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre's snippets made him sound harsh and out of touch: “To hell with the people that want to sit on their butt and not find prosecutors, courtrooms, judges and prison cells to take these people off the street to make these neighborhoods safe.”

In addition to its liberal-dominated set of interviews, CBS relied on emotional manipulation to make the case against gun rights:        

“Either dead or in jail, that's the kind of life it is,” a stoic young man told CBS Correspondent Byron Pitts. 

“She was 18 years of age. She got murdered,” said an unidentified woman as a picture of the deceased flashed across the screen.   

CBS dotted the July 23 installment of Battle Line Philadelphia with anti-gun imagery.  For example, the camera panned across a wall inscribed with the names of the 406 people murdered in Philadelphia in 2006 followed by a car window full of bullet holes.

Pitts twice introduced viewers to young men who proudly produced their weapons for the camera, and the last two scenes included a man with a machine-gun tattoo and a concrete pad covered with firearms.

Pitts also introduced Mel Wells, a “community activist”:

“I believe that this is a war,” Mr. Wells opined.  “We had -- two weeks ago, we had a grandma was going to church, we had a brother walking out of a bar, we had a lady trying to get up to Temple Hospital to see her mother in the hospital -- all of them dead today. All of them dead today. Yes, I do call that type of thing a war.”

“Traditional policing does not work,” a Philadelphia police commissioner told the camera.  “And traditional policing is only locking the people up. That is not the only answer.”

What does CBS think is the solution?

Pitts answered with the opinions of unnamed experts: “tougher gun laws, better education, better jobs would make the difference.” 

Whether government programs actually work was not important to Mr. Wells, who assured viewers:  “As long as you trying, you got something to go for.” Throughout the series, Pitts used Mel Wells as a mouthpiece for CBS, lobbing softballs and failing to challenge his opinions even once.   

The July 24 Evening News featured an “employer, a preacher, and a police chief” from “different parts of the country,” each with “different perspectives” on the urban murder problem.  In fact, they just restated the same old talking points about inequality and gun control. 

“It's about disparity. It's about the distance and a gulf that's ever widening between the haves and the have-nots,” said Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries.  Boyle is a member of the left-leaning American branch of the Society of Jesus.     

A gang member from Chicago agreed: “We don't really got nobody who help us, not at all.”

CBS News went all the way to Miami to solicit the opinion of police Chief John Timoney on gun control: “Since there's been no national effort to deal with this -- with the guns and the availability of guns, and any reasonable measures that have been advocated have been defeated by Congress.”

Pitts failed to note, however, that police chiefs who support gun control are in the minority.  A 2005 survey by the National Association of Chiefs of Police found that 93.6 percent of chiefs and sheriffs support “civilian gun ownership rights,” and 63.1 percent claimed that concealed-weapons permits reduce violent crime.  Not surprisingly, the same survey reports that 93.2 percent say the news media is “not fair and balanced.”  

As a previous CMI article discovered, studies show that gun control almost never reduces violent crime, possibly because only 21 percent of the guns used to commit crimes are legally purchased. 

Timoney, a Caucasian, also played the race card: “There's also some inherent racism. I can guarantee you, I can guarantee you, that if 85 percent of the people in big cities were getting killed were white, there would be a different approach to this whole thing.”

“Remember, that's a police chief talking,” Pitts said approvingly. 

David Niedrauer is an intern at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.